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Saturday, March 04, 2023

Memphis Grizzlies Announce That Ja Morant Will Miss at Least the Next Two Games

Let's hope that Ja Morant does not end up like Gilbert Arenas or--even worse--Tupac Shakur. Athletes and entertainers who wave around guns or otherwise portray themselves as being "about that life" have a long, sad history, a history that those who are close to Morant and care about him should make sure that Morant familiarizes himself with during his upcoming time off of work.

Today, the Memphis Grizzlies issued a brief statement: "Ja Morant will be away from the team for at least the next two games." The Grizzlies did not call this action a suspension, did not indicate if Morant will be paid during his absence, and did not explain why Morant will miss at least two games. Of course, anyone who follows the news even casually knows exactly what happened. Last night, Morant posted a video of himself on Instagram holding a gun, apparently in a nightclub. Recently, Morant was sued as a result of an incident during which he allegedly beat up a 17 year old and brandished a gun during that attack; Morant denied that accusation, and the authorities declined to press charges. Earlier this season, associates of Morant's were banned by the Indiana Pacers after the Pacers' traveling party alleged that a red laser dot--like one used to aim a gun--had been pointed at them. The NBA investigated that incident but found no evidence that a gun had been pointed. Last summer, Morant and associates allegedly had a confrontation with a head of mall security; no charges were filed as a result of that incident.

I am a firm believer in the bedrock legal principle of innocent until proven guilty. Morant has not been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one.

That being said, a person who keeps putting himself in the wrong place at the wrong time runs the risk of having wrong outcomes. During tonight's ESPN "NBA Countdown," Jalen Rose--who candidly admitted that he used to be Ja Morant, a young basketball star figuring out how to adjust to fame and fortune while resisting the lure of the streets and the temptation to act like a tough guy--said that he has learned that people enter your life for one of four reasons: addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Rose declared that Morant is a leader now whether he wants to be or not, and that he is responsible for who he associates with and for his actions. Rose is encouraged by the statement that Morant issued, and Rose is optimistic that Morant will grow as a person as a result of this situation.

Here is Morant's statement: "I'm sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies organization for letting you down. I'm going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being."

That statement is the right message, but talk is cheap. Morant's subsequent actions will demonstrate the sincerity of his statement.

Part of Morant's self-cultivated image while emerging as an NBA star is that he "wants all the smoke," meaning that he does not back down from anyone or anything. There is nothing wrong with swagger. Some of my favorite athletes of all-time--from Muhammad Ali to Reggie Jackson to Deion Sanders--bragged about how great they were. There are two key things to remember about Ali, Jackson, and Sanders: (1) They backed up their braggadocio with championship-winning performances, and (2) they understood the difference between competitive swagger and reckless personal behavior. Morant has fallen short in both regards, and the latter failing could have fatal consequences for himself and others.

I am not accusing Morant of anything--other than foolishly posting the gun video on Instagram, which Morant has not denied doing--but I hope that Rose is right that Morant will make better decisions moving forward. 

It will be interesting to see how the NBA handles this. Commissioner Adam Silver often appears to fancy himself as a friend to the players, in contrast to his predecessor David Stern, who understood that his job was not to befriend the players but to act in the league's best interests (which is also benefits the players). I recall an interview in which Carmelo Anthony described a one on one meeting that he had with Commissioner Stern, who told Anthony that he knows where Anthony goes, what Anthony does, and with whom Anthony associates. Stern told Anthony point blank that he can embrace street life or he can participate in the NBA's multi-billion dollar business, but he cannot do both. That is the kind of tough love that saves lives. I hope that Commissioner Silver delivers a similar message to Morant. It would be great if Morant's father--who seems to love the limelight--delivers that message to Morant as well.

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posted by David Friedman @ 10:14 PM



At Sunday, March 05, 2023 8:25:00 PM, Anonymous Eric said...


This news is truly eye-opening in so many ways. I certainly agree with both you and Jalen Rose's assessments regarding Ja and if he can move forward appropriately from this incident. I also wondered about how if this issue would have been handled under the late David Stern's regime as commissioner. Arenas was infamously suspended for 50 games (or whatever the remainder of the season was) and his career took a nosedive due to that locker-room gun episode and his decline in health/performance.

The fact that Ja got only 2 games worth of suspension is just laughable and once again reinforces a notion you reiterate on this blog: the NBA is a business first and foremost, and it will do everything it can to maximize revenue and minimize losses. Ja getting suspended for a double-digit length in games plus potentially extending into the postseason would attract attention to the league for all the wrong reasons.

At Sunday, March 05, 2023 10:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It is possible that the team or the NBA will take additional action after the investigation is complete, but the most likely scenario is that the team and the league will do p.r. damage control in order to bring Morant back as soon as possible, whether or not he is ready and repentant.

Until all of the relevant information comes out, I am not sure what the appropriate discipline would be, but two games seems light based just on what has already been confirmed.

At Monday, March 06, 2023 1:49:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You make a really good point with your Ali, Jackson, and Sanders examples as far as the difference between swagger and wannabe gangsterism. They knew just how good they were at what they did, but they had a sense of humor about it because they understood how absurd it was that they were getting paid so much money to play a game for a living. Ali's and Sanders' antics were playful and thus charming. I'm not as familiar with Jackson, but I suspect that, like Ali and Sanders, Jackson didn't take himself too seriously. They were all very serious about their craft, of course, but one gets the sense that they were grounded human beings for all that.

It seems like Morant, however, lacks perspective and thus takes himself way too seriously. He has no idea how absurd it is for a grown man to be worshipped and paid hundreds of millions of dollars because he's really good, perhaps great, at playing a game with a round ball and basket. Probably he lacks the maturity of a grown man, arrested development or the like. Draymond Green isn't nearly as talented as Morant, but he strikes me as another immature buffoon who takes himself seriously in the way that adolescents do.

At Monday, March 06, 2023 3:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you!

I think that Jackson took himself pretty seriously, but not in a harmful way, and he once helped capture two robbery suspects (https://www.upi.com/Archives/1982/09/10/California-Angels-slugger-Reggie-Jackson-captured-two-robbery-suspects/5360400478400/), which is a lot different than the way Morant depicted himself in his IG video.

Green and Morant appear to be intelligent in certain ways, yet they both lack maturity, self-awareness, and self-control (as evidenced by Green's repeated verbal and physical outbursts, and Morant's recent incidents).


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